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First Taste

This was our first taste of beekeeping. I’m already listing down ideas for different mead recipes for when we start getting the honey.

Old Boar's Apiary

Used under CCA 3.0 - created by Wojsyl Used under CCA 3.0 – created by Wojsyl

On Saturday the better half and myself went along to our first batch of beekeeping training. While it was interesting I can’t help but feel that the amount of pre-reading and self-study I’ve been doing prevented me from enjoying the course quite as much as I could have done. Without any of the pre-reading it would have seemed packed with information and tidbits – but unfortunately all the theory felt to me like retreading old ground.

There was definitely a highlight to the course though, and that was getting our hands on a hive in order to inspect it. Honestly I was expecting this to be much more intensive and difficult than it was. With a little smoke, and a lot of honey, in them the bees were incredibly placid as we lifted out frames and carefully studied them – checking for…

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Posted by on June 23, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Day of the Triffids

Uncleared allotment

An hour or so after clearing has begun a path into the foliage appears

We now have a half-plot allotment, and an option on another full-plot next

A salvaged grapevine, clinging on to life

A salvaged grapevine, clinging on to life

door. That works out around 380m² apparently, which is quite a lot of land (for someone who works full time, commutes, and tries to make a fair bit of homebrew). Whether we’ll get the full plot, or just stay with the half one we have, remains to be seen (but should be sorted by the end of next week).

The important bit is that the bit of land we have is currently somewhat overgrown. There are about half a dozen ash trees (several metres tall), and the entire area is covered in six foot brambles. Or was. We’ve only managed to snatch a few hours of clearing down there, but already have about a quarter of it completely cleared (or at least to the point where soil is visible – admittedly we’ve yet to start pulling up roots) and have made a marvellous discovery. We’ve managed to uncover two living grape vines.

They’ll need some tender loving care, and we plan to plant more (purchased from our nearby vineyard) as well as some hyssop for companion planting, but the sense of achievement

After a few hours of clearing we discover that this is actually land, not simply brambles on more brambles

After a few hours of clearing we discover that this is actually land, not simply brambles on more brambles

at saving them from the thorny triffid occupation is incredible. The plan also includes getting a bed of hops granted, and brewing some beer, with the aim to be that the only thing we need to purchase is sugar (and I’m not ruling out putting in some sugar beet to deal with that).

So in a year’s time we’re hoping that Old Boar’s Brews is capable of producing something entirely homegrown, possibly even with our own yeast strain if we can get one cultivated. There are a few other plans in the offing for the allotment, so I’ll be updating regularly. Once it’s all cleared and planted I’ll be trying to talk the missus into letting me plant more things to brew – but probably best to keep that quiet for now as I believe she has her own plans.

And finally, for the last hobby mention, we’re looking at brewing some small beer at living history events – in the traditional ways that will scare the pants off anyone used to using sterilizer, commercial yeast, additives or anything else. Just need to find a couple of brewing pots, and we think we can get some custom made. Watch this space.

Also watch out for upcoming articles on lilac and cowslip wine, and the challenges of siphoning dandelion after the dandelion flowers have disintegrated (or rather on the importance of muslin bags).

 

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2014 in Growing, Preparation, Uncategorized

 

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Brew your Hedgerow

Sadly I’m just too far away to make it, but for anyone in the area looking to get into making their own wine it sounds like a great introduction.

Winemaking in west Wales

Just to confirm and remind that there will be a brewing workshop in Small World Theatre on June 21st.

The first workshop focuses on flower wines and you will start the day with a foraging walk gathering fragrant elderflowers to make a delicious collective wine at Small World Theatre. Look at the equipment needed for wine making, discover various dried and fresh seasonal flowers, learn wine making methods and troubleshooting, and of course wine tasting! Participants will have the opportunity to come back and collect a bottle of wine later in the year.

for more info and to book your place go here

3 stages of elderflower

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Posted by on April 17, 2014 in Uncategorized

 
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Apartment Brewing Tech: Towels (and lots of them)

Apartment Brewing Tech: Towels (and lots of them)

The Apartment Brewer’s advice here is important. My flat carpet is still slightly multicoloured from my earliest brewing experiments, before I learned this valuable lesson.

The Apartment Homebrewer

For those who are new to homebrewing, towels may seem an unlikely addition to your kit. However, new and seasoned homebrewers alike know all too well of the messes, sometimes gigantic, that can happen on a brew or bottling day. Since brewing indoors on a stove top presents many challenges, having some trusty clean-up technology can make the process less dramatic, especially when you’re trying to learn or perfecting a new creation. In this Apartment Brewing Tech post, I run down some simple tips to improve your brewing process with the use of some old (but clean) towels.

Why might I need towels in apartment brewing? Kitchen floors and stove tops aren’t designed for homebrewing in mind. If they were, my apartment brewery would be much nicer (and have a built-in floor drain). On brew or bottling day, messes are likely. The bigger the batch, the bigger the mess: more…

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Posted by on March 21, 2014 in Equipment, Preparation, Uncategorized

 

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State of Play

The carrot wine is bubbling away happily, and some parsnips will be going on the boil tonight. Still to bottle we have another three gallons of mead, a gallon of peppermint mead, so plenty to go.

Polyscience® - The Smoking Gun Promo Pack (Includes 5 x 500ml pots of wood chips)

Polyscience® – The Smoking Gun Promo Pack (Includes 5 x 500ml pots of wood chips)

I do have a plan for the remaining mead. While some of it will be diluted with another few gallons of the raw spirit I’m going to put some aside and try an experiment. In the worst case, I’ll waste a few gallons of mead. Best case, I’ll be inventing (okay, probably not inventing as I’m sure it’s been done before – I’ve just not heard of it) smoked mead. I’ve wanted one of these things for a while anyway, and this seems the perfect excuse. No idea whether it’ll work but that’s what experiments are for.

On the bottling front there has been some rather significant progress. A picture is supposed to be worth a thousand words, so it’ll be easier to explain with the below than going into purple prose.

In order from left to right: diluted mead, more diluted mead, pineapple-rum thing, more pineapple-rum thing, kiwi, lychee, parsnip, more parsnip, mushroom

In order from left to right: diluted mead, more diluted mead, pineapple-rum thing, more pineapple-rum thing, kiwi, lychee, parsnip, more parsnip, mushroom

 
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Posted by on March 21, 2014 in Bottling, Uncategorized

 

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Salvaging the Mead

Last night was a board game night at a friend’s. For purely experimental purposes, I took along a bottle of the (sickeningly, syrupy-sweet) mead and another of the spirit mix. Glasses were provided, and different proportions poured into each. Unfortunately the results mean that I may have rather a lot of spirit mix still to make – and an awful lot of mead/spirit mix that’ll have to be bottled. Such a shame.

Essentially the result of the experiment was that a mix of 1 measure mead to 3 measures spirit mix makes something not merely palatable, but actually pleasant. Even though the spirit mix still has a touch of sweetness itself, it isn’t nearly as cloying as the mead and dilutes it quite nicely.

For those who might be interested this means that I will now have to:
– Make another 10 gallons of spirit mix (I currently have 5 gallons)
– Bottle a total of 20 gallons of mead/spirit mix

To give people a rough idea, one gallon generally gives me five bottles. Twenty gallons will then be 100 bottles of pleasantly drinkable mead.

I’m going to need a new wine rack. And a lot of bottles. And more corks. And possibly more labels. This might take a while.

 
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Posted by on March 14, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Basic Spirit Mix

Basic Spirit Mix

  • Servings: 5 gallons
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Ingredients
* 6 kg castor sugar
* 1 kg demarara sugar
* 2 gallons boiling water
* water to 5 gallons
* turbo yeast
* yeast nutrient
Homebrew & Winemaking - Alcotec 48 Hour Pure Turbo Super Yeast

Homebrew & Winemaking – Alcotec 48 Hour Pure Turbo Super Yeast

This is the nice, simple, basic mix I’m trying to put together to dilute things which are a bit too sweet, or a bit too strong on flavour, without reducing the alcohol content. In theory it should only take a couple of days with this yeast – though for this time it needs to be in the bath as the fermentation is somewhat…dramatic.

Young's 100g yeast nutrient

Young’s 100g yeast nutrient

First off add the sugar to the fermentation bucket. Boil the water, and gradually add it to dissolve the sugar. Top up to five gallons with cold water once the sugar is fully dissolved, and add the yeast and yeast nutrient to the directions on the containers (I used one sachet of yeast, and five tsp of yeast nutrient).

Then stand back, keeping it somewhere waterproof as it almost certainly will foam over. Fermentation should finish in a couple of days, and the spirit ready to add to whatever you’re trying to dilute. I’ll be trying this at the weekend, raw, and then doing a lot of experimentation with the mead to try and hit the right notes. Keeping my fingers crossed that it’ll work out, though I may have a fair chunk left over afterwards (and will have to use it on other projects, obviously).

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2014 in Recipe, Uncategorized

 

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